Court backs Adventist in Sabbath work dispute
July 31, 2012
In a 2-1 decision, a federal appeals court has ruled that a lower court erred in dismissing a suit filed by Kimberly Crider against the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UTK).
Crider, a Seventh-day Adventist, was hired as one of the university’s programs-abroad coordinators in May 2008. Four days after her hire, she told her supervisor that she would be unable to work between sundown on Friday and sundown on Saturday because of her religious beliefs. After Crider was assigned to work on a Saturday the following month, she proposed different accommodations that were rejected by her supervisor and colleagues. Refusing to work on a Saturday, Crider was fired.
“UTK and the district court imply that it is Crider who has the duty to accommodate UTK’s needs and that ultimately she is the one being unreasonable,” the appeals court ruled. “A Saturday Sabbatarian’s request for every Saturday off of work due to their religious needs is not per se unreasonable … It is debatable whether UTK fulfilled its duty to reasonably accommodate Crider.”
“We stop short of holding that an employee requesting religious accommodation can never be treated differently,” the appeals court added. “The very nature of this type of accommodation requires that, where an employer operates its business on Saturdays, a Saturday Sabbatarian’s accommodation will require another employee to work a Saturday shift.”